Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Path Diverged

Originally, when I was thinking about this post, I was just going to talk about my ankle injury and related issues. That idea was entirely shredded when yesterday's events happened. I will still get around to updating you on my own little world, but it amazing how quickly one's issues can be put into crystal clear perspective.

More than a year ago I joined a community of runners, and I didn't even know I was doing so. It took me months before I began to reach out on this blog and other social media looking for like-minded individuals to learn from and share with, and I now find myself entrenched with all of you. Yesterday's bombing at the Boston Marathon was an attack on that very community, and I think we are all feeling the ripples more than anyone else in the world. Sure, this was an attack against my country, a city I have visited, and innocent bystanders, but it was an assault on an event that bases itself around the communal aspect of running we cherish.

People from all around the world come to Boston to do the same thing. Sure, it is Patriot Day, but many who arrive on our shores aren't here to celebrate our history; rather, they come to compete in one of runnings toughest events. We come together in one place to do one thing: run. Running is like a universal language where we speak with our legs and our times. We have shared experiences in races and training. We can look at someone at a race and know that they have done and are thinking the same things. At the beginning, we all get and chip and a bib. At the end, we all get a finisher medal. What other sport is like that? What other event can a 78 year old compete again an 18 year old? Where else can a man from Africa compete against a woman from China? I would argue, as a single event, a marathon, especially one as large and iconic as Boston, is the most important in the world.

What I am getting at is this: this attack has shaken us in a way we may truly never understand, but we can already see how powerful a community we are a part of. Just look at the immediacy of the #runforboston campaign; who else could organize something like that? Who else would simultaneously wear race shirts in memory of an event? I saw an article about our communities power in USA Today, and I couldn't be more proud! We are all feeling like our families were attacked because of how close we all feel. We can all sense what it would be like to be one of those in the videos coming to the finish line, joyous, exhausted and proud, only to immediately have reality crash down around us. We can all feel for those who have lost or will lose limbs and possibly never run again. I know I am changed, but I will not let this damper my love for running and for my community, country and fellow man/woman.

I wish I could put more of my feelings into writing, but I am just not that talented. I just hope this post is a catalyst for some thinking, and maybe it will put a bit of a positive spin on an otherwise tragic day after so much evil. Spend today counting your blessings, and take a second to look around and be happy you are here, healthy and able to do something so many others cannot.

As for me, my issues are so incomprehensibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but in case you were wondering, I thought I would still include a bit of an update. After a bone scan towards the end of last week, I was told immediately that I have a stress fracture in my left ankle. I was told that I am not able to run for 6-8 weeks, and that I need to stay off my feet as much as possible. I don't have a cast or anything, but I still need to see an orthopedist for more information. I will probably make an appointment right after this post, but right now my ankle feels pretty good. I am just icing it, keeping it elevated, and I use crutches when I can. My job keeps me on my feet a lot, so I probably won't heal as quick as I could, but it isn't so bad.

I am just glad I decided to get the scan because I would probably have started running again if I hadn't, and I would have just made things worse. I have some mild pain killers and anti-inflammatories, but beyond that, I just need extra calcium. The big thing, and easily the most heartbreaking personally, is that I will not be able to run in the Flying Pig like I had been dreaming about and working so hard to achieve. Last week, and before Boston, I was really in bad shape emotionally, but now I am just happy to be able to get back out there eventually. Will I try for another marathon? I don't know. It was an awful lot of hard work to come up short, and maybe I am just not built to do it. Maybe I will focus on shorter races and speed? Maybe work towards sprint triathlons? Who knows, but I have plenty of time to think about it.

For now, I am just doing some weights and light stuff at home. My diet is destroyed by plenty of stress eating, and I am a bit lost without a goal or a way to get in cardio. I may be able to swim at the YMCA if my membership is still good, but it just isn't the same - I want to be out enjoying the weather I waited so patiently for. In the end, I am lucky, but this is still a bit of a personal tragedy, and I just have to figure out how to move on. We all deal with issues, but I would be tapering this week, gearing up to truly prove myself as a runner. I would finally be able to call myself a marathoner, and now I can't even run for Boston. It is hard, but I am not alone. I will cope, I will heal, and I will be back.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Tale Of An Ankle

Sometimes, as runners, we deal with injuries. Maybe it is a knee (been there) or a foot (been there, too), but now I am dealing with an ankle. I ran my first half marathon on Sunday, and my ankle had been an issue before, but now it has become something that has me on the sideline.

This is something that dates back a few weeks, and I think it is related to a previous issue with my Achilles. I don't know if I had simply subconsciously altered my form whole struggling with that, if my barefoot running just increased to dramatically, or if my minimal shoes are too worn down, but now my left ankle is shot. During the half, where I managed to finished at about 1:57, it started to hurt after the first few miles, but I just pushed through because I am stubborn. I didn't want to be that guy being carted back to the start, and I just wanted to get my finisher medal like everyone else.

As the race went on, I had an inkling that something was wrong, and I really started to feel it after I finished. By the evening, I could barely walk on it, and by Monday, I almost didn't make it to the shower in the morning. I made it to work, but I was able to get an appointment with my doctor, so I took the afternoon to get things checked out. He looked at the ankle, and judged by the location of the damage that my ankle might be broken. I got a cortisone shot, an x-ray, some painkillers and anti-inflammatories. The x-rays came back negative, but the doctor wasn't convinced, so he ordered a bone scan for today.

I just got back from part one of the scan, and I will go back in a out an hour. Hopefully I will have some answers by the end of the day, but right now I am on crutches, but I feel much better. I am not ruling out a hairline fracture of some sort, so I am glad I am getting the scan, but I am also becoming more hopeful that this is something I can recover from quickly. The key here is that I don't want to miss my marathon in May, but I am not going to push myself to do so. I am going to heal 100%, and if that happens in time to run it, then great. If not, I will just have to reassess and move on.

At this point, even if I heal in time, I will probably not be trained enough to straight up run the marathon through and through, but I'd like to at least shiw up and run/walk it. Time will tell, and today's scans will give me a lot of information. I am just going to have to keep icing, elevating, compressing and using anti-inflammatories. I will just monitor my progress and take it easy - what will be, will be!

I am still proud of myself for my half-marathon time, and endurance-wise, I was fantastic. In fact, the last 3 miles were fantastic because I had so much more left in the tank than a lot of people around me, so I was passing people left and right. If I were healthy, I can only imagine what kind of time I would have put up. This is just a step in the right direction with a little pause in my overall goals.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Farewell And A Return

Everyone faces tragedy in their lives; it is as inevitable as the sun rising or the leafs coming back in a few weeks. Regardless of inevitability, nothing can prepare you for some phone calls. This was the case, as I was teaching 2 weeks ago, and this is really the first time I have the time and mental-state to talk about it with anyone beyond those immediately affected.

With that being said, I want to start out by talking a little bit about mental illness/severe depression and my understanding of it. Most of us go throughout our days in cruise control. Somethings may take us out of our near zombie-like composure, whether it be something good or bad, but generally and in a short period of time, we are able to go right back to the way we were before. For those suffering from depression or mental illness, bad news or even any news, can put them into a downward spiral that they may not get out of.

For a friend of mine, I believe that moment happened several years ago, and he was never able to get out of it. Although my friend had support, I don't know if anything would have brought him back from his declining mental-state. No one knew how far down into darkness my friend was, and I believe this is the case for many, so when I got the call that he was gone, I was shocked. Sure, I knew there was something wrong, and that there were signs, but no one had prepared for or thought about the possibility that someone we loved would leave us.

So now, we are left wondering why? What could we have done differently? Did we do something wrong? Who is at fault? In the end, I don't think we will ever truly know, but what I do know is that I am left with a void in my life that will never be filled. I lost a great friend, and the world lost an even better person.

With all this in mind, I have now begun to refocus my individual efforts to better myself. I will continue to become better physically, but I also want to increase my mental strength and conviction. During the last few weeks, I allowed myself some slack, and my training suffered. This last week I attempted to get back into things, and I managed my first 20 mile run. Still. I could tell I wasn't as in-shape or prepared as I would. Hopefully, I can get totally back on track this week, especially in terms of my diet. This is all inconsequential in the grand scheme or things, but for my own happiness, I need the routine and normalcy. Hopefully I will be able to get back on a schedule with my blogging/writing as well. I apologize for my absence, but I am glad so many of you came looking for me; I was truly touched.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speed Vs. Length

Chicks dig the long ball and touchdowns. I am curious as to what is more appealing to people: speed or length (in running, perv). I ran my first race over the weekend, a 5k, and I was not remotely as fast as I wanted to be, nor was I as fast as I have been, despite my best efforts at speed work over the winter. It turns out that my marathon training, though allowing me to run far, has also slowed me down a bit. With that said, I realize I could probably do both, and I will this summer when I can run outside more, but I still think you can only be great at one or the other - hence why Olympic athletes are either built for speed or distance. If Usaine Bolt were to run a marathon, his wheel would come off! Would you rather be fast or would you rather be able to run long?

Personally, I just go with the wind - some says I want to go fast, and other days I wish I could go out and do a 50k. In fact, I think I will be entirely reevaluating my running after The Flying Pig. I also think I will simply go out and get back to running for the sake of running - just go out and run, no goals, no objectives, just get miles in and just get better in general. Then, I will decide what impossible goal I want to accomplish next. I am attempting to work towards benching 200 pounds, and I believe it to be possible. Beyond that, do I want to get under 20 minutes in my 5k? Do I want to try my legs at ultra training? Do I even have time for that? I will have a lot to decide, and I am excited about it.

I think being a runner is the perfect for this because I have time to think about it while I am plugging along! Additionally, I believe my body will give me an idea of what I should do. Right now, I think I will decide to work on my 5k because I am built more for that, being a little shorter - I just see myself as built for speed.


I had an okay week, but I didn't get out to run until Saturday at the 5k. I have been resting my Achilles, so I did one bit of cardio on the elliptical and another on the stair climber. Additionally, we had a last bit of winter weather spring up during the week, but the weekend turned out to be beautiful and warm. Sunday was my long run, and I out in 12 miles in what felt like 80 degrees, but it was only 65. It is crazy how adapted my body became to the cold weather, so now I am going to have to adapt in the opposite direction.

I have also been hitting my core like I am angry! Dead lifts and all different kinds of weighted abs/obliques are really making a difference! I am loving the physical and visual results I am getting! The key is really to approach your core like you are pissed off and punishing it!


Do you love speed or distance? Are you built more for speed or more for distance?

Anyone else get out and race? How was it?

Anyone else watch the Walking Dead? This season is amazing.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Your Runner Personality

Are you a different person when you stride out your door, laces laced, tights tight and GPS GPS...ed? I think I am. By day, I am a mild-mannered (sometimes) educator with a heart of gold (more like silver, but still a precious metal). By run, I am a man-on-a-mission; a stone-cold mile-slaying robot from the future; a carnivorous devourer of all that is mileage; an individual with a single-minded approach that is both insane and maniacal to the uninitiated. Okay, so that was a bit of morning-hyperbole, but I am certain different from one aspect of my life to the next.

I started thinking about this after an article I read regarding the running community and its acceptance/embracing of social media (don't have the link, but it just popped up while using the app Stumbleupon). I won't go into the article too much because the topics are different, but it was more of a catalyst for my own thoughts. While the article was about how social media aids in the running communities desire to meet each other and share our passion, I was more interested in the personalities that come along with the different aspects of our lives.

I think we are all a little like Michael Keeton in Multiplicity, just without the clones and piss-poor dialogue. Instead, we embody those clones inside our squishy core. Every day, we head off and act professional in whatever career/job we "choose" to suffer-through. Then we come home, maybe act like a father/mother, or a wife/husband. Later, you may go out with some gender-aligned friends for a few drinks and your "friend personality" takes over. Having running in the mix is no different - we each have a runner personality, and I think runners are the only ones that can understand this.

Like I alluded to, my runner-self is a bit more intense than my teacher-version. I go out for a run with a purpose, and I thrive in that regard. If I plan on running 15 miles, I am going to get it done no matter what. I also have blinders on when I am trudging along; I appreciate the world around me, enjoy the sights and smells, but I am in the zone. Running appeals to me because it is such a great way to disconnect and remove myself from reality for awhile. While some people use drugs or video games, I choose to strap on some weird-ass shoes with toes, and subject myself to discomfort and pain; am I a masochist? Are we all masochists? Maybe. Just not to the extent of this guy:

How different is your runner personality? Does it leak into your other personas? It does for me! Maybe it is the endorphins, but I think running has made me a far more upbeat person. Additionally, I am a bit more on the random side now, as I do and say things that are reflective of the insanity put into running. This part is hard to explain, but essentially it just makes me more of a verbal risk taker, and I am far more honest. In essence, we runners are all like Superman, and if you were Superman, wouldn't you be a little more confident as Clark Kent? Maybe even a little cocky in the knowledge that you do things other can't? Yeah, we've earned that right, I think.

So, what kinds of personalities do you have? How do you differentiate between them? Do you have any conflicts?

This last week was a mixed bag. I got through my 15 mile long run without any major issues, but I had to skip a run last week in order to rest an ailing Achilles. I have been icing this portion of my leg, much like I did with my knee, and I am confident that it won't be a major issue, but I just need to be careful. I still continued with my lifting/cross-training, and I have started to really emphasize the work on my core. This week will be a good test of my legs, as I have a time trial, and my long run goes down a bit in mileage. I may also be running a 9 mile trail run on Sunday, so I am excited about that.

What would you liken your runner personality to?

How have your changed since becoming a runner?

Apparently this is a half-marathon week for some training plans; do you have one planned?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, February 25, 2013

NASCAR Provided a Bigger Wreck Than My Long Run

February is almost over! I feel like I am just burning my time until that happens because I just dislike this month so very much. I am the type of person that needs something to look forward to for day to day and week to week, and February just doesn't have much of that; I mean, when I am looking forward to the Daytona 500, you know things are a little dull!

Regardless, I have made it this far, and I have found ways to cope. This past week had some highlights, both in training and otherwise, so I was able to make things bearable. Training-wise, I was really happy with my early week runs (even though they had to be on a treadmill in order to wear my Vibrams). I also had a powerful and successful lifting session on Wednesday evening. I really wish I had had time to blog during the week because it was just one of those sessions where weights didn't feel as heavy, and I was putting up everything. The problem is, I can't remember everything I did. I do know that I made a point of going heavy weight and lower reps all week because I had done so many circuits the previous week that involved body weight and higher reps.

As for running, which I consider the main event, I had one of my best runs ever and one of my worst, all on the same weekend. Saturday was a gorgeous day, and I was able to get out in my Fivefingers for 5 miles. I did wear my new Injinji toe socks with them, which was phenomenal, and I crushed the run from beginning to end. I knew it would be a great run when I started because I hit the first mile at a casual 8:00 pace - I had to do a double-take. After that, I just continued to push, and I never felt like I was working that hard. I ended up doing the 5 miles with an average pace of 7:40 - boo yah!

Oh, then came Sunday - son of a... I get angry just thinking about it! I had to get 12 miles in, and I should have done it in the morning, but I have lazy bones. Instead, I wait until after work, so I didn't get back in until close to 7. We were having people over for the Oscars, so the whole thing felt rushed. Additionally, it was cold, I was hungry, and I hadn't fueled correctly the night before or during the day - in essence, I broke every running rule and it happened to be on a long run day - ugh.

I felt sluggish the whole time, my calves were on fire from the start, my socks kept shifting, I had to pee, and I just wasn't in it. Regardless, I pushed through, and I am better for it. I woke up with sore knees and calves, but by noon the next day, I was close to 100%.

On a brighter note, I chose my long run to try some new goodies. As you may have read, I had used Gu gel shots previously, and they were basically disgusting. This time, I went to the running store and picked up the Gu Blocks shown above. Additionally, since they were right below on the rack, I grabbed some Nuun to throw in the ol' Camelbak. The blocks were an improvement for sure because they tasted 100 times better! I would say they fueled me just as well, and I liked the overall ease of use. Plus, I felt like I was eating something a little more real and solid - I would recommend them, unless you don't have the room (the package is a little bigger than the gels).

The Nuun, on the other hand, was a little underwhelming. If you don't know, Nuun is a tablet you add to water to supplement electrolytes. Essentially, this is far more important if you sweat a lot, so I think I will wait until it goes warmer. The taste was pretty good though, and it didn't leave too goop up my saliva too much. Eventually I will try doing a 50/50 Gatorade to water mix too, which has been mentioned to me before. I just wanted to see what all the Nuun hubbub was about.

For Laughs:

Where do babies come from?

Do you use Nuun? Thoughts?

What kind of long-run-fuel do you use?

Is it warming up by you, or are you dealing with all those blizzards?

Did you miss me this week?
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

So. Very. Cold.

Here I am, sitting on my tush, watching hockey.  Wait, hockey?  Yeah, I don't generally do that, but I did graduate college from a hockey school, and you have to tune in when they are playing outside, in Soldier Field, against Notre Dame.  So far, not so good, but they have a little more time to try and pull something out.  Funny (or not funny) fact:  I have never watched my Redhawks win when I watch them on TV... Yikes. (Update: my streak continues - booooo)
I feel like I earned my right to sit on the couch today because I am finally back into double digit long runs!  The last time I went 10 miles or more was Tough Mudder in October, so I was a little nervous and excited about today.  I made sure to not go out and drink heavy last night, and instead I had a pasta dinner.  I also got plenty of sleep, had a good breakfast of oatmeal, quinoa and chia.  I wanted to make sure that this run went as smooth and painless as possible.  Unfortunately, the temps were in the teens, and I do not do well in cold weather running, especially considering I need a couple pounds of extra gear on! 
I wish it had been this warm on my run.
 What did I wear?:  I got an app the other day that is specifically designed to help me decide what to wear.  You can find it in the app store under "What To Wear."  To be honest, I didn't really follow the app because it said to only wear running tights.  The weather on Saturday was similar to today, and I didn't like how long it took for my legs to get warmed up with just tights.  Today I added some track pants on top of the tights, along with my compression sleeves on my calves, compression shorts and two layers of socks.  Finally, I put on my Koppen long-sleeve tech shirt, North Face pullover fleece, skull cap, gloves and my full Camelbak. 

Overall, I felt like it was a good run.  I started out real real real slow, at just under 9 minute miles.  Again, my legs just wouldn't warm up!  In fact, I don't feel like I really got loose until mile 7!  Regardless, runners push through, and that is exactly what I did.  Besides, it was cold, but at least it was super gorgeous out!  I get so much energy from the sun, so I just fed off that.  I also decided to take a totally different route, which proved to be a great idea.  I found out that I have so much more safe running areas than I even realize, and all I have to do is head out my door.  I am excited to keep adding more and more distance to this new route, which will eventually include a scenic trip around a PGA golf course.
Try to get your chest as low to the floor as you can.
Yesterday I put together a training-prescribed 5 mile run, but again, it was slow.  I don't have much to say about it besides that it was cold, I was sluggish, and it wasn't even sunny.  At least I followed this disaster up with a quality gym-session.  I created two circuits that focused on my legs, chest, back and core.  For the first circuit, I did 10 push-ups with both hands on one medicine ball, 10 reverse push-ups using a bar, 30 crunches and 25 box-jumps to keep my heart-rate up between sets.  I did this circuit 4 times.  For the second, I did 5 squats with 115 pounds, 30 lateral jumps, 10 push-ups on each side with one hand on a medicine ball and 10 pull-ups.  I also did some machine work on the chest and back, as well as some extra core work.  Personally, I love circuits for the simple fact that my heart rate stays up, and I know I am getting a quality workout for my time-investment.

Diet Update:
I find myself constantly trying to figure out new ways to get protein into my diet, and I think I have come up with a delicious and simple way to do it.  Runner's World recently did a short article about canned fish, and how these are often forgotten or ignored ways to get fish into our diet.  Personally, I always find cooking fish to be a pain, especially when it is cold, and I can't use my grill, so the idea of a pre-cooked alternative was alluring.  I also grew up with canned fish because my dad always had it in the house.  Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and grabbed a few examples: sardines, anchovies and salmon.  All of these fish were broken down in the magazine, and they all have some great advantages. 
Today I threw some anchovies onto post-run salad, and I was really impressed with how good it was.  These particular anchovies were salted, so it added some that flavor, which I liked.  I also thought the texture was just like having bits of chicken!  Some people are weird about texture, and I don't think you would have an issue.  The only problem for some people might come from the smell, which is very fishy.  I don't have a problem with it, but I also don't think I will be eating this in the teacher's lounge.  I may just reserve these for my post-run work, especially considering the salt will help with recovery.  If you like fish and are lazy like me, this is a great way to go.  I am excited to try all these different flavors! (Those worried about over-fishing, most companies have made tremendous efforts to maintain populations, so this is a much smaller issue these days)

Other Things:
I am super excited to have a three day weekend!  Having that extra day to sleep in tomorrow will be amazing!  I am also excited to have some close family friends over tonight for dinner.  We went over to their house last weekend, so it was our turn to host.  I love the idea of Sunday dinner, so this is awesome. Plus, I love hanging out with my friends' kids.

I also feel like I am in a state of limbo right now.  My parents have lived in Alabama for almost 10 years now, so I only see them one or two times a year.  Recently, my father has been searching for provost positions at universities back here in Ohio, and he might hear back about one this week.  If this were the case, we might be picking up and moving this summer.  Personally, I hate moving, but I would love to have my family close by.  I definitely have my fingers crossed!

Have you ever had fish out of a can?  Do you like it or does the idea weird you out?

Are you the type that will try anything or are you picky?

Do you have to drive somewhere to go for a run or can you just go right out your door?

Anyone else have President's Day off?  What are your plans?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Runnertine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day (yes, I know it was yesterday, but I was busy doing by V-Day duties)!  I hope you all had a wonderful and productive little holiday.  Personally, I don't mind it, aside from the obvious craziness of my teaching day (kindergarten students live for it, and I loath it), but some people hate the holiday to its core.  No matter your feelings, I think it is good to have a few days a year to make us think about those we love.  I hope you had a good day, and that maybe you got some good swag along the way.

Personally, I received a pair of Injinji toe socks to compliment by near obsession my Vibram Fivefingers. I am excited to try these out because I have been wearing them totally sock-free, and therefore, I had a limit as to what temperature I could run (I cut off around 40 degree, at which time I just put on my Brooks).  Now I probably have another 10 degrees of buffer to work with, which means more gloriously difficult but fulfilling barefoot runs.

I have been pretty fortunate with the weather lately.  This week alone I had two beautiful and semi-warm days to throw on the VFFs and hit the pavement.  To be honest, when the sun is shining, I am a far better runner.  On Monday it was cold and cloudy, and my 7 miles were totally miserable.  Tuesday was the exact opposite, and I put together a beautiful, reaffirming 4-miler.  I even did hill-repeats (the first speed work in my Vibrams), and I felt like my legs had unlimited potential.  Dayton is pretty flat, but I do have some hills right by my house.  I went up and down this little gem 6 times during the 4 miles, and I felt great after it.
Fact: Hills look and feel more intimidating in person.

I followed this run up with another fantastic experience yesterday.  Once again, it was warm enough to wear shorts, and I headed out in a great mood.  Once again, my legs felt unworldly, and I put together a quick fartlek run of 3.1 miles.  These two runs have combined to make me extra excited for my weekend, which will involve a 5 miler tomorrow, and a 10 milers on Sunday.  It is a good thing I am so excited because this will be the first double digit run I have done since before Tough Mudder in October.  My knee and my ITB feel 100% better, my legs are getting stronger, my cross training has my entire body feeling strong, and I am feeling ready to enter some real distances again.  I seriously can't wait!

Speaking of cross-training, I had a solid week in that department.  I have continued to work on my dead lifts and power cleans, which is really good for keeping me humble!  Dead lifts let me know how far I have come, but they also show me how far I have to go with my core.  While I have been working on my front side, my lower back hasn't had as much action, so I am really glad I am hitting that area strong.  I also feel like my fore-arms are getting worked more than usual, which is a tough area of the body to do.

Along with my general weight-lifting, I am continue to work on my #fitfebruary push-ups challenge.  I have been doing all different kinds of push-ups, averaging over 100 a day for the month!  I am loving what this is doing for my chest and back!  I am also loving the use of medicine balls and balance equipment for them because it forces your body to balance and adjust in the process.  When your body is working that hard, it works like a body-wide plank, which is VERY powerful.  If you have two medicine balls, try spreading them out on the floor and putting one hand on each.  Then just balance on them and do a push-up.  Try to get as low to the floor as you can, and feel your chest, back, core, shoulders and arms all working to accomplish the task - awesome, right?
Two balls is better than one... for this exercise.
This is just one example, but there are many ways medicine balls can come in handy for push-ups.  Just do a Google search, and you can spend forever trying all the ways.  The same goes for the always versatile Bosu ball, which was recently features in Runner's World.  Just try to incorporate some of these push-up exercises into your WOD or circuit, and you will get some serious upper-body strength.

Diet Update:
I would think most of you drink a protein shake on the reg, so I don't even need to recommend that.  What I do need to recommend is this:  get vanilla whey of some sort, use milk (water and protein is gross), and then add banana, strawberries and blueberries.  Yeah, your world will then be rocked!  Not only is this combo delicious, but you are getting a tremendous amount of benefits.  Personally, I like to know that the things I am eating have some sort of future benefit for my training, my body or my mental state, so this is a great way to go.  Some people like to add peanut butter, and I do like it, but I also don't want the added fat.  On a normal day, the only bad fat I have come from my morning coffee creamer, and I am not giving that up, so I had to prioritize.

Another Failure:
Valentine's Day was fun, but it has been horrendous for my diet.  I have students who have parents who like to bake, so I was showered with sugary snack.  I also received many a chocolate and plenty of candy... Ugh.  I really have no will power, so if things are placed in front of me, I tend to go overboard - the later part of this week has been no exception!  I really should have seen this coming, but I intend on seriously cracking down on things next week because I foresee no set-backs on the calendar until St. Patrick's Day.  I have still included some good things though, so I haven't felt too bad during my workouts; I just really want to tone up before race season and swim suit season!

I am becoming more and more involved on twitter, so make sure you follow me!  I feel like the dorky kid at the table though because I have next to no followers!  I just don't know how people get tens of thousands of followers!  Plus, how do they keep track of all those people?  I have a hard enough time keeping up with my current feed.  I do like all the #runchat and other chats that come along because I learn one or two new things every time.  Get on with me and let's talk running and fitness.

I am also curious as to how you feel about male bloggers.  To be honest, I didn't expect for this community to be so widely dominated by women (definitely not saying this is a bad thing), so I sometimes feel a bit out of place.  I was wondering if I am out of place, and if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  I am also curious as to whether or not this has impacted my blog's following at all.  This is just the social-scientist in me!

Finally, I am curious as to whether you have any suggestions or questions for me?  I would love to hear from you! 

How was your Valentine's Day?  Did you get any running goodies?

Is anyone else a massive Walking Dead fan?  I am.  How did you feel about the new episode?

Does sunshine dramatically impact your run?

What do you add to your protein shake?

At what mileage do you feel like you are really "running"?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Keep On Keepin' On

Sometimes I wonder if I am the worst blogger on the planet because I don't post enough, and when I do post, I do it at random times.  I really should decide on some sort of set schedule, but I don't think I would follow that.  Besides, I already have so many schedules in my life, including my training schedule, so one more may just drive me over the edge.  I figure if this whole endeavor becomes too much work, it won't be fun any more! 
This Is Me Sometimes
Anyways, I am done venting, so I hope you all forgive me for not getting on this more often.  This week I just haven't had as much to talk about as I usually do, and I still don't.  I got through another week of training, which I am happy with, but it wasn't a big deal.  I did have an absolutely amazing run on Saturday, but it wasn't too long, and aside from the beautiful weather,  it was relatively uneventful.  My legs felt great though, and I was just happy to be out in the chill/sun while half the country was getting dumped on by a massive blizzard named after a famous Pixar fish.

I did want to talk about my first ever experience with group running because, well, it was my first.  I have occasionally run with one other person, but this was definitely my first with a large group.  I have been wanting to do something like this for awhile, but I got a nudge in the right direction by a fellow-running co-worker who invited me to meet up with him and his wife.  Additionally, the meeting place was at a pub 5 minutes down the road, so I guess the stars just aligned, and I had no excuses not to go.
It was a lot like this, minus the beach, sun and warm weather.
 So Wednesday night I got out of my comfort zone and met up with a bunch of people at the tavern.  The event is a monthly event put on by a local running store.  Normally the group meets up at the store itself, but this just mixes it up.  They choose a new place to meet every month, so it was just lucky that it was so close.  There were probably 25 people there, including my coworker, his wife and some family members.  The whole group ranged in ages, ability levels and genders.  Everyone was very nice, but this being my first experience, I felt out of place.  I was just glad to know someone because I had someone to run with.  He is a much quicker runner than I am, but he had wanted someone to run a little slower with, so I was happy to oblige. 

Overall the run was great, but I had run the day before, and my legs were a little tired.  I tried to keep a good pace, going a little above a comfortable pace, and the course had some pretty solid hills.  Additionally, everyone running received a free pint glass and appetizers!  I am glad I went out and did it, and I look forward to similar experiences in the future.  I don't know if I will go out every week, but I would like to get to know some of the people better.  I read an article in the most recent Runner's World about how we should all mix up our routines by running solo AND running in groups because of the benefits of both.  This is something I will continue to talk about with time.

I would say the best benefit that I noticed about running with someone else is that they definitely make you pick up your game.  Considering how tired I was, there was no way I would have gone as fast I did without someone there.  Even though it isn't a race, I found my competitive nature kicking in much like it does during a race.  This was definitely one of the advantages mentioned by the magazine.  The key was to get out of my comfort zone, and I did that, but I like that there are real benefits to it.  I love running, but I like knowing that every bit of training I do has a purpose and an advantage.

Other Training:
The biggest change I made this week was an increase in the intensity of my weight-lifting cross-training.  I decided to take a Crossfit-like approach to my gym sessions, increasing my speed from exercise to exercise, keeping my heart-rate up, and varying what I am doing.  I find this easier if I set up a circuit, or if I use a workout of the day.  The biggest addition to these circuits has to be the use of dead-lifts and power cleans.  Dead lifts are especially important because they work so many muscles, including the core and lower back.  Power cleans are also a fuller body lift, and both are super challenging and form specific.  It is really going to take me some time to become comfortable with these techniques, but I like the challenge.
Okay, it's really only one failure, but I am not proud of it.  I had to skip my long run yesterday because I had gone out a little too hard the night before.  This was a wake-up call for me, so I really don't see me doing anything like that again (aside from St. Patricks Day) up until the marathon is over.  To be honest, I don't drink often, and I still think of myself as a drinker when I do.  I think my tolerance was way down, and I wasn't used to the higher alcohol content of the craft beers I was drinking.  I really need to crack down on this kind of thing and get serious.  My diet and my habits need to get perfected, and I need to crush this race.  I did get in the long run today though, but it was a miserable business!  My legs felt like bricks, and I just didn't have the energy I would have liked.  Plus, the weather was beautiful all day until I got home, and then it decided to get windy, cloudy and cold.

Do you find admitting your failures as a beneficial practice?

What kinds of failures have you had that were wake-up calls for your training?

Do you run solo or with groups?  Which do you prefer?  How often to you do each?  Who do you run with?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Thrifty Ginger

Sometimes I amaze even myself, and one such occurrence happened Friday. Usually Dick's Sporting Goods is not known for good deals, and you are lucky to get out of there without spending 60 dollars on a shirt. This was not the case on Friday, and I am still shocked! I immediately hit the clearance racks, which are usually picked over and worthless. This time though, I got all the following items for about $60:

I have already used most of these on runs already. The Koppen long sleeve tech shirts are amazing! I got two of those for $9 each, and they are very comfortable and warm. I threw the yellow north face pullover on top, and I was perfectly comfortable in around 28 degree temps. The Koppen hat was $5 and I am super happy with it. All these cold weather clothes breathe while still keeping my cozy. The pullover was only $20... For North Face... What!? The Saucony run shorts were actually the most expensive, but I needed new ones now that my Under Armor shorts are falling apart. To sum up, I am now a Koppen fan for cold weather gear! Definitely take time to hit up those clearance racks folks! The women's selection was pitiful, which is a reversal of the norm at most stores, but that may just be my store.

Moving on, I came across this little tool by GNC to calculate how much protein you need. I would say it is pretty broad, but it might help you. I would just do a Google search for it if you are interested. I found out that I probably need to add more protein to my diet because I do so much lifting and cross training on top of just running. Part of this addition may be the addition of quinoa to my diet. I picked up a good sizes bag of the stuff at Sam's Club of all places, and it is even organic. I just need to figure out what I want to do with it. Quinoa is a good natural and organic source of protein, so that is a win! Maybe I can figure out a way to add it to my daily lunch, which is generally big on veggies and low on protein.

Funny Story Alert: Now that I said that, you won't find it funny, but I sure do. I have had this story for days now, but I keep forgetting to mention it. Recently I used this picture in a post for motivation:

I then mentioned how much I wanted to high five someone on a run. Well, guess what? Well? Okay, I will tell you. I high fived someone! Now, here is the thing, there are not many runners out and about around me, so I haven't had many opportunities, so I had been waiting for my opportunity. This came in the way of an older lady, and she had no idea what to make of it! She undoubtedly thought I was crazy, but felt bad for me and did it anyways. I was totally juiced for the rest of my run! I am guessing the experience was a bit like this for the woman though:

Training Stuff:

I continue to pluck away at my runs, and I am feeling great. I went on my long run yesterday, and it was easily the easiest 9.1 miles I have ever done. I feel like my whole body is strong now, so it takes punishment and recovery so much better.

I do really want my distance runs to be closer to 8:30 pacing, but I did have a lot of hills on that course, especially at the beginning. Also, on a side note, MapMyRun updated, so I was finally able to see all my splits! This new version is really phenomenal for a free app! If you don't have a garmin, or even if you do, get on this!

Another note, I had my first Gu ever on that run, and it was totally nasty. I promised myself that I would do my long runs just like I will do my marathons, so I brought fuel, and I strapped on a full Camelbak. I am just glad I had all that water to wash down the grossness! It did a good job though, and it made the second half the run easier. I will write a full review of the Camelbak in a few weeks, but I like it so far! I hated carrying a water bottle!

Beyond running, and almost as important, is my devotion to the gym and cross training. If carrying that big ass Christmas tree box is cross training, you can include that into my training log! I did do any gym over the weekend, but I went there today and hit it hard. I did the following Workout Of The Day:

I also included 30 reps of dead lifts at 155 pounds, 55 extra push-ups, 50 reps each on two back machines, 30 box jumps on a 24 inch box, side and front planks and 30 pull-ups.

I am happy with this one, and I am feeling the burn! My back is good sore from the dead lifts, and I love the challenge of power cleans! I also looked like a total but on those box jumps because I almost died several times - I am not coordinated enough! I am loving the new exercises and determination these workouts are giving me on my gym days!

Short Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook:

I won't go too into this because I am not a movie blog, but this is a bit of a runner movie. I think we (runners) would all see a little of ourselves in both of the main characters. I know I saw a ton of myself in Bradley Cooper's character, and that was both scary and enlightening. To sum it up, the main characters are both suffering from mental illnesses, and they use running and eventually dancing to help them cope. These two things help unite both characters. I know running certainly helps me stay sane on a much lesser scale!

I really enjoyed the movie though because it was heartfelt but humorous at the same time. I love movies that take a potentially serious theme and make it appropriately funny.


How was your Super Bowl experience? Good food? Good drink? Win any money?

Doing any challenges in February? If so, which ones?

What is your favorite cold weather gear?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Digress: A Return To The "100%" Mantra

I am going to take a brief intermission from my questions in order to return to something that I posted about several months ago: my committal to living and doing things in my life at 100%.

I doubt anyone remembers this little diatribe of mine, but I just wanted to quantify my efforts, both in fitness and life in general. I therefore put a goal of 100% on everything I do on a daily basis. I know 100% is hardly possible with everything, especially considering how subjective this is. Regardless, many days I have caught myself slacking in one department or another, and I try to steer the ship back in the right direction. On a day like today where I am in a bit of a funk (I suffer from light seasonal depression), giving myself a bit of an evaluation seems like a good choice. Here is where I think I stand in a few categories:

Fitness: I would give myself about a 90% in this area. I am sticking strong to my marathon plan, I am cross-training on most of my "rest" days, and I am hitting my runs/workouts with an alright amount of ferocity. Still, I think I could do more, and I want to do more. Today I did a one-mile time trial, and I think I could have pushed a bit more to get under 6 minutes - just an example, but I want no regrets come May.

Job/Career: I love to teach, but I am not a kindergarten teacher by trade. The job market for teachers here in Ohio is abysmal, so I was forced to take what I could get for a daily paycheck, while stilling getting an experience for my résumé. Some days my patience is paper thin, but I can honestly say I am doing my very best about 80% of the time. That other 20% comes on days where, for whatever reason, I just get worn down. This is an area I can always improve in, and I think I have, especially since my last 100% update. I just really need to get a job in grades 4-9! With that said, I love my students, and there is no way I could go in, everyday, rain or shine, sickness or more sickness, unless I thought the world of my little crazies.

Friendships: Yikes - I am throwing this on here and just now thinking about it, and I am an awful friend. I don't like to talk on the phone, so that is a big strike one. Most of my friends live farther away, so that is strike two. Strike three comes because I just don't really have the time to do much! If my friends lived close, and if they were runners, I don't think this would be a big deal. I just need to really address this! The Super Bowl will be a good chance! I will give myself a 65% because friendships are a two-way street, and I feel like I do the vast majority of the effort when it comes to making plans or getting ahold of someone. Sometimes I just feel invisible!

Relationship: Psh, like I am going to talk about that on my blog! ;) If you want drama, head on over to ABC and watch The Bachelor.

Diet: If this category were on a graph, that piece would look like a bloody roller coaster! I think this is an area I will always struggle with, but I am learning a lot, and I think I am continuing to improve, especially in the area of balance. I will give myself a solid 75%.

Final Thoughts: I think these scores all give me an ample opportunity to improve. If I took the easy way, and simple gave myself all 100%, where would I be able to look to in order to get better? Hopefully this kind of positive self-criticism is a helpful tool for someone besides me, but if not, it is certainly helping me during these tough, dark, cold times.

Week's Training Thus Far:

Monday I modified the above crossfit WOD in order to better fit my needs, and to avoid congestion at the gym. I had to look up the wall ball shots, and there was just no way I could pull that off in a crowded facility like mine. The same went for the double unders because jump roping didn't seem practical. I also eliminated the kettlebells because I wasn't working my shoulders. The rest I completed, some all at once. Some I had to do in a few sets, but that is okay. I also added I a few of my own tricks and machines in order to round out a chest, back and core day. I also liked the exercises that used my legs so that I was getting a workout without too much pressure on the knees.

Tuesday: I don't really want to say what the above route looked like on my Tuesday run (hairy nuts), but I will say that this was an amazing run. I started off sluggish, and I was regretting wearing my FiveFingers. This feeling didn't last long because after the first mile, I was off to the races! I went from a sore 8:56 mile to 8:16 overall. I could have gone more, and I even added a mile over what I was scheduled for. Sometimes you just gotta go a little farther, especially in unseasonably warm temps. I followed the run up with some arms, shoulders and core. I can't really remember much from the gym, so it must have been fairly unremarkable.

Today: As you saw, I did a time trial today after a mile warm up. The weather was still just warm enough to be in shorts and a short sleeve running shirt, but I was a bit cold to start. I am not unhappy with my time, but I need to improve before March and impending 5k/10k season! I think I just need to really pick up my speed in my weekday runs, include more speed work, and even do more short mile runs. I will go sub-20 this spring!

Side Notes From Life:
I will make this brief, but part of my frustration today was caused by this little gem this morning:

Yeah, that is my ceiling crumbling to the floor! We got a bad rain storm last night, and that area had been leaking for awhile. We had called to get it fixed well over a month ago, and no one had come out. So, now they ultimately will have to tear up a huge section of my kitchen! I am not pleased, and the piece falling scared my dogs. Not cool nature, not cool.

If you were to rate yourself on a 100% scale, how would you be doing?

I want to hear about your training! Let me know.

Ever had your roof leak, or have you had any home-owner issues?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, January 27, 2013

This Is The Life

Why did you get out and run today? Was it to show your kids the importance of a healthy lifestyle? Were you trying to erase a few extra holiday pounds? Are you trying to achieve a goal that everyone said was impossible? We all have our motivations for running and continuing our lifestyle, and I don't known if there are any truly bad ones, as long as you aren't going overboard!

I got some great responses to people about why they do what they do, and I am just so impressed with the resolve of my fellow runners/athletes. Let me be the first to tell you, you are amazing, strong, and maybe a little insane. Just a little.

One inspiring and influential runner, Holly, over at Run With Holly, was kind enough to share her motivations. Holly told me that fitness has been a gradual change for her over a long period of time. "I grew up in a family that valued activity, although not necessarily formalized fitness. I had my fair share of failed athletic pursuits until I settled on swimming in my teens."

Each phase of Holly's life brought a new motivation for her to maintain her lifestyle. "I went to college, and wanted a way to avoid the "Freshman 15" that the cafeteria threatened to provide. I was busy, and the treadmill offered the highest calorie burn for 30 minutes of exercise. I ran exclusively on the treadmill during my entire freshman year. That summer, my younger sister (a cross-country runner) finally persuaded me to run outdoors with her, and bingo - I was hooked. I ran 3-4 miles, 3-4 days/week in college."

Being a relatively new runner, I am intrigued by those who have been doing this for extended periods of time, and seeing how they continue to love this little sport of ours. It is one thing to get hooked, like Holly, but it is quite another to stay that way! Holly continued her journey well beyond college: "I moved to Rochester, NY - and got hooked up with a running community there. I trained for my first half-marathon, became a hard-core trail runner, trained for a marathon, became a coach, and have done all sorts of running things since. Gradually, 40-50+ miles weeks became my "norm", and I was heading out for full-day trail running excursions with my trail buddies. I swear, the whole thing just crept up on me, I swear! ... So I "wasn't always this way", nor did I have a single "epiphany moment". It just happened.... And now, it's such an intertwined part of my life that I don't think I could extricate the two if I wanted to."

Maybe the key to true motivation is the true integration of running into our lives (in a balanced way, of course). If running is intertwined into who we are, we have no choice but to do it and love it. Personally, I am not to that point yet, but I wish I was, and I look forward to the day where running is simply a part of who I am. Unfortunately, this also means avoiding running becoming "simple" and not exciting anymore. Like in Born To Run, running has to be fun, or it is just a chore, and you will just end up injuring yourself.

Personally, I am just trying to find my groove again. I have had periods of activity in my life, like swimming in high school, and training to try out for the crew team in college. For whatever reason, this just never stuck! I am now trying to fully integrate running and fitness into my life, and I think the passion I have for it is the missing link I didn't have before. Time will tell, but I think I turned a corner somewhere.

As for the rest of you, no two journeys are the same. Some come from years of experience, others are just starting out, like me. Either way, if you love the act of running, or you love crossfit, or you love barre, do whatever it takes to hold on to that feeling. When you are having trouble getting motivated, just remember what made you love it in the first place.

Marathon Training Week 2:

Today I wrapped up week 2 of training with a 7.1 mile run. On three other days this week, I put up 4 miles, with a few miles of walking here or there. I am actually writing this update while walking a few cool down miles on the treadmill (I also wanted a few more miles for the Chilly Challenge). My legs feel good, though I was a little stiff yesterday. I will take a rest day tomorrow.

End Of The Chilly Challenge:

I am sad, but the challenge is ending in a few days. I have met a lot of great runners and fellow bloggers along the way, but now I won't know what to do with myself; if anyone has any similar things going on in February, let me know.

Page Update:

Finally, I wanted to mention that I have begun to update my diet page. There isn't much to it, but I go into a bit of detail into foods that are working for me these days. Go ahead and hit that up, especially if you are new to my blog.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

United We Are Strong

First, I just want to say how happy I am to know all of you who have been kind enough to take time out of your busy lives to read my rants. I love interacting with other runners, and though I don't have time to post as much as I would like, this is an outlet for me. To be honest, most of my friends are not runners, and that is fine, but I found that I needed people to talk shop with because those non-runners were getting annoyed with me. This is where my previous post's question, "What kinds of issues do you come across with non-runners? Do you have a lot of non-runners in your life and how do they take your habit?" came from. Don't get me wrong, the people in my life are supportive, but they aren't understanding; you can't understand how amazing it feels to run past 10 miles unless you have done it. This blog is where I can share my feelings and experiences without boring people. Hopefully, I don't bore you all!

As for the question, thank you for your responses! I will get to many of the questions with time, but why waste so many blog topics at once! Plus, eventually I have other things to talk about! For now though, let's delve into those around us who do not run. My new friend Melanie, over at 4Kottez Runs For Itt, said it well when describing her situation: "Luckily I have a great support system with my 'habit'. They cheer me on and are proud of my accomplishments." Non-runners make the best cheerleaders for us, and we couldn't do this without them. If everyone around us ran, how would we have any perspective on our accomplishments? Non-runners may not know our deep connection to running, but they do understand how hard it is. Whenever a loved one looks at you like you are crazy, or gives you a hard time, just remember that they are doing it because what we do isn't easy: embrace that.

Nadiya, over at Milk And Honey On The Run, also had a great perspective on this ordeal: "Being around non-runners is hard and especially those don't eat healthy or exercise. Before I used to live with a few friends who lived the typical student lifestyle- pizza, pepsi, cake, no exercise, watch TV. I kind of felt into that trap too although to a small extent. I felt like I was always judged when I cooked or went for morning runs." This reflects how I feel sometimes, although in a less college-like way. The idea of judgement is something I feel whenever I try to order something healthy off a menu, and I often get comments like, "What, are you trying to make us feel fat?" I get frustrated, but I have to remind myself that I was there too. I think the key is to just do you, and eventually everyone will just let you go by your rules. (Definitely check out Nadiya's blog because she is one smart cookie!)

Finally, another brilliant runner, Mallory, over at Sit For Your Job, Run For Your Life, had another view of the question: "I get frustrated sometimes when people talk about becoming fit or losing weight but yet don't do anything to change it. Then I remind myself to stop being a jerk and just be supportive and encouraging because that's what they need. Everyone in my life is supportive and encouraging." We are role models my friends, whether we like it or not. I would say, for the most part, most people would love to have the motivation that we do, or to have the ability to go out and run 13 miles on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in April. Perhaps, through our actions and support, we can get some people to become more healthy or even a future running buddy. I know I have encouraged a few people to get out there, and that is amazing to me. People may give us a hard time, but just remember how powerful an image you create on every run. Mallory is a great example of a runner and a person, so make sure you check out what she has to say!

Is It Acceptable To Wear Toe Shoes To The Gym?
As the picture illustrates, I have been wearing my Fivefingers to the gym in order to get some barefoot training runs in on the freezing cold days. I am curious as to whether you all think this is acceptable or whether you would just look at me like I had lost my mind? I think it is a bit odd, and I feel weird, but it is just too cold without normal shoes. I really want to do a good portion of my training runs barefoot in order to work on my form and strengthen my calves. I doubt I will change my ways, but I open this up to make fun of me ;)

So far, I have put in 8 barefoot miles this week, but unfortunately, both days were on the evil treadmill. I really need things to warm up around here, but at least I got a 2-hour delay from work on Tuesday! I've also put in some weight lifting for cross-training, and I am loving having whole workouts to devote to this. I love how much arms are looking, and I am making huge gains in my chest. I will give more detail to my workouts this weekend when I finish up week 2 of training.

How is your week going? Anyone running one of the many marathons on May 5? I know of at least 3, including where I will be.

Anyone else in a winter funk? I am having a hard time getting through it because I love running in the spring and fall so much.

Feel free to answer my last posts questions. You can find them here.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Down Without A Frown

Who doesn't love a good rhyming title? I am a big big fan. What else am I fan of? Koala bear fights, yes (YouTube that!). King Cakes, yes. The movie Taken, yes. I also love me some marathon training! I completed week one this afternoon, and considering I have been under the weather, I came out strong all week. I love having something specific and big to work towards because I have added motivation on a daily basis. Now I am not just running, I am running for a reason. My mileage this week hasn't been amazing, but it wasn't supposed to be. I did some cross training and extra miles here and there, but I do wish I didn't have to travel to Cleveland again on Friday because I would have liked one more day at the gym. I will just have to make up for it next week.

Since my miles were down, I have had some extra time to kill. Here is one of my recent exploits:

Yeah, I am super good at Angry Birds, and I am not sorry about it. I don't really want to say how much time I have spent on this, and my other most recent addiction, Temple Run 2 - are you kidding?! So addicting.

Basically, I am a waste of space over long weekends, but at least I still got out for my miles. I also blew my diet out of the water, but that is what happens when you are around non-runners all the time. I need to work on the whole will-power thing.

I also need to work on explaining/helping others by talking about my weight-lifting. I usually just say what I worked on, and I don't go into detail. This coming week I promise I will go into my workouts with a teaching mindset and then report back to you. I think my work at the gym is going to give me a huge edge come the spring. This coming week I am going to really hit my chest and back because I am really starting to like how it looks and feels. I am also going to destroy my core in a good way: stay tuned.

Finally, I also want to feature some of my followers in the coming days/weeks. I want to pose a few questions to ponder, and then you can email me what you thought of. From there, I may take your responses and throw them right here to help others. I am also going to answer these questions, so it will really be helpful I think. Here you go:

What is the most important lesson you have learned since first becoming a runner and what is the biggest newbie mistake you made?

What is your primary motivation/inspiration for your healthy lifestyle? Have you always been this way or did you have to make a drastic change?

What do you think you most need to work on with your running or fitness?

What kinds of issues do you come across with non-runners? Do you have a lot of non-runners in your life and how do they take your habit?

Would you say running and fitness defines you? If not, how big of a role does it play? Can you be too into running?

If I have more ideas, I will throw them up, but you can email me at mrfrancko@gmail.com. I am looking forward to hearing from you. I won't hesitate to link you up and shout you out! I love promoting fellow bloggers.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cross Train Like A Boss

So far so good when it comes to my first week of marathon training. I mean, starting the week off with a rest day was nice, and it made me feel like this:

It also wasn't bad going into yesterday with only a 3 mile run on the calendar. I out some effort into it to make myself feel better, and I also walked 2 miles later on. In between, I cross trained like a boss, hitting the weights with some ferocity. I love working my chest and back, and I need that area aesthetically more than most things. I also got some core work in with some weights, machines and planks. I want to cross train is as much if my free time, away from running, as I can. I also want to use my new running form, even in my Brooks, as much as possible, so I did my entire run that way. I definitely made sure to wear my compression sleeves!

I am not sure what the overall "coolness" factor, or lack thereof, there is with that look, but I am pretty lame as it is. Oh, and I don't run in those shoes, don't worry - those are just a knee injury waiting to happen!

Today was a "rest" day, but I still got weights in to keep the cross training alive. I worked on the sides of of core, obliques, arms and shoulders. I always try to keep my workouts varied, but I always focus on certain muscle groups (chest), and within that, I try to pair up those groups with similar but opposite functionality (biceps with triceps, pectorals with lats).

I feel bad this week, despite my marathon excitement because I miss putting up more miles for the Chilly Challenge. I even let Amy know that I wouldn't be holding my end, so hopefully the rest of #teamescapades will hold me up! Unfortunately team giraffe put the hurt on us early this week, going from 100 behind to nearly 500 miles ahead - whaaaaat?! Good thing I love the people on both sides of this epic conflict. Again, sorry team! I will be coming back up soon! I just want to keep my legs fresh and healthy.

Speaking of love for my fellow runners, someone tweeted this gem today, and I had to steal it! I really need to start high fiving fellow runners because I would be juiced if someone did this to me.

Stay frosty out there folks! Keep those feet moving, and it will be spring soon enough!

Do you wave to or high five other runners?

How are your miles? Are you training?

What cross training do you do while training? How often?

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Monday, January 14, 2013

A Real Rest Day

Temperatures here in southwest Ohio have returned to their normal frigid state today, just in time for my 3 mile training run tomorrow, and I am mildly okay with that. Don't get me wrong, I love me some warm weather in January, but it is also a bit of a tease. I need to just get out there and have to work for every mile in the cold, and then I will get used to it. If it gets warm, it is awfully hard to get used to anything!

Obviously I will talk more about my training later this week, but here is my schedule going forward in week 1 of my 16 week cycle:

I am not too intimidated by much that is to come aside from the cold and the impending long runs. The farthest I have ever gone is 18 miles, so 20 will be a whole new area for me. Luckily, it should be warming up a bit at that point. Other than that, I already do intervals, speed drills, and other assorted training-type runs. I am very excited to be guided through the process, and then be able to discuss it with all of you. I can't wait to see what kinds of things work for me, and what kinds of things I will change in order to suit my own tastes. I am also looking forward to turning quite a few of those rest days into weight-heavy cross-training workouts. I plan on having my whole body be prepared for the rigors of 26.2 miles. Finally, I am looking forward to incorporating barefoot running into my training to increase my foot, ankle, knee and calve strength.

Today though, I am going to do next to nothing. I wrapped up my pre-training training with 102.94 total miles during the first two weeks of the #chillychallenge - I wanted to make sure that I was entering training with a killer mentality, and a no quit attitude. I also wanted to tell my body that marathon training is just one step in a much longer journey in my running career. Some people train for a marathon and then they move on with life, and I intend to do the opposite. Rather, I want this marathon to be the first of many, and I want to be able to go even farther and accomplish more things on my "impossible list." If I can come away from the training and the race stronger and healthy, I will have the confidence to work towards becoming an iron man; I just need to take that first step.

A note on my dietary exploration: chia seeds are going well! I have used them in my morning oatmeal, and I tried them in my yogurt for lunch today. I thought the added texture would throw me off, but it really wasn't a big deal, and it didn't ruin or alter the taste. These seem to be a super easy way to incorporate some seriously bad ass nutrients into my diet. I put about half a tablespoon into each thing, and the serving size is one tablespoon. I think more than that in a little bowl of oatmeal or a cup of yogurt would be too much.
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Form Fitting And Some Diet Schtuff

Much like the compression clothes that we squeeze into on a daily basis, our running form needs to be just as form fitting. Now that I have confused myself with my own metaphor, I will simply say that our running form is part of who we are. To be honest, when I started running, I had no idea that there was a right or wrong way to run; I simply thought that if you stretched regularly, improved slowly and ate right, you wouldn't get injured - yeah right!

So, if our form is part of us, what if that form is also wrong? Turns out, that was the case for me, and my joints started to feel it. Now, I have to change my own natural stride for the all-around natural stride. This explains my shift to barefoot running, and my obsession with tweaking my form. This brings me to my next step, which may involve a book I finally got my hands on: Chi Running - A Natural Approach To Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer. I had heard about this book, and I understood the basic premise: run with a meditative approach, run with better form, be relaxed and live the run by using your core more.

I have only just opened the book, but I am already impressed with how much it makes sense, and how much overlapping it has with the principles discussed in Born To Run. Essentially, the more I love running, and the more I know about the "art" of the sport, the healthier I will be in the long run. This is all going to come together in the end for me, but for now I am just excited to enter training with so many concepts and skills to work on and experiment with. Dreyer was all about figuring out the mechanics of his own body in order to get the most out of it, and I have that same kind of mentality. Stayed tuned for more!

I also wanted to discuss some dietary things I am doing moving forward into next week. The first is the use of chia seeds in the things I eat. This morning I put half a serving of them in my oatmeal to try it out, and essentially it tasted the same; I have no problem with that because I am still getting the benefits. If you don't know about this new phenomenon, then let me enlighten you with what I know: chia seeds are a super food, much like avocado. The sees are fill of things like omega-3 and they can be out into all different kinds of food, or used to make different things as the main ingredient. I've heard of these seeds on blogs, and they are mentioned, along with quinoa, as a great food for runners in Born To Run. I am going to use these sparingly, as they are pretty expensive, and I had to get them from Trader Joe's, which isn't right down the street. Still, I think oatmeal and my lunch yogurt will be my primary places to add them.

While at Joe's, I also picked up some great looking organic broccoli because it has some great benefits as well, not the least of which is being a anti-inflammatory. I wanted to avoid this scene at my local Kroger:

Yeah, way to suck Kroger. Who needs to eat healthy anyway?

This is by no means a food blog, but I am looking forward to experimenting with some new things and telling you about it.

As for the Chilly Challenge, I am still trying to pull my weight. Today I did a total of 8.45 miles, 5 of which were on the road in my Fivefingers. Yesterday I did 4 in my Fivefingers. Total for the week, so far, I am at 42.67 miles, and I feel good. I gotta say, my calves are finally starting to come around, and they are recovering much faster. Hopefully I can put up a 50 spot this week. Go team Escapades!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chilly Challenge Update And The Calm Before The Storm

Howdy my fellow asphalt-addicted lunatics! I figured I would use the greeting of the south in honor of one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Missy, over at Southern Girl Running. Missy is doing the Chilly Challenge with me, and she has become one of my primary motivators, and I just wanted to thank her for that. In fact, I have met a bunch of great people through Twitter, and I am having a great time. I still recommend anyone to sign up and do it; it literally takes two seconds to put your name and handle on a spreadsheet.

As for me, I feel good about my overall contributions so far. I have put up a grand total, in one and a half weeks, of 71.77 total miles, 19.52 of which are from this week. Today I went out an increased my distance in the Vibrams to 3.25 miles! I had a blast out there, especially because the weather was unflippinbelievable! I was out there in a short sleeve tech-shirt and running pants - amazing! My feet stayed warm, and I am super happy with how my calves feel. I wore my compression sleeves on my calves, and I really think that helped. I also followed the run up with a trip to the gym where I put up an additional 6.42 miles on the elliptical. I think the added distance on the elliptical really helped keep my calves loose, so they feel great right now. Don't ask me why I didn't get a even 10 miles today because I don't know; I think I just lost track of mileage - woops.

I am really excited to move forward with the challenge, and I am meeting incredible new runners and bloggers everyday! I am also looking forward to logging some solid marathon training miles next week! This week is weird because I am caught between two two: my normal flexible routine and my future scripted routine. Both concepts will be in play next week because I am going to keep lifting and cross training, but I am excited to have a proven set of goals and methods at my disposal. I like knowing that what I am about to embark upon will genuinely help me run my first marathon and run it well!

Barefoot/Vibrams update: I really love those little fingered torture devices! My calves are sore, my feet hurts, and my form is still in transition, but I really love the feeling I get when I run in them. I am also confident that the transition will get easier with time, and that my experience in minimal shoes will help me. I have done some running in my Brooks, and I already notice a difference in my technique and form. This is a part of my journey that I am looking forward to; I just wish everyday was as warm as today!

Site Update: I may not have updated the blog with posts in a few days, but I did update the "my story" page, so you can read a little about me (I don't know why you would, but who doesn't love options?). Additionally, I updated my future races with a few (there will be far more as more races start coming around in March and April (I need to find a 10k for March! Any ideas?). I am slowly trying to make this blog a little more professional and less unseemly. Thanks for hanging in there!

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Some Reviews, An Update, Looking Towards The Pig

Good afternoon my fellow runners psychopaths. As another week comes to an end, I wanted to create a summation of my last week of freedom. Tomorrow it will be back to the every day grind of creating tomorrow's leaders. I have enjoyed the last week because it has given me an opportunity to rest AND get back to my fitness routine. I actually hit this week pretty hard, both because I wanted to help in the chilly challenge, and because I wanted to start working off those holiday calories as fast as possible. Beyond all that I did some reading and watched some movies.

A few days ago I finally finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, and I am just now getting around to writing about it. To be honest, I have been reading this for months because I only have so much time in a day to do that sort of thing. When I read, I need to just be reading, and I rarely have time to myself where I am not being interrupted. Luckily, I had time in the car during holiday travels, and I gotta say, I can see why this is one of the most highly recommended running books out there. I would say that the best thing I can say about the book is to simply look at my new passion for barefoot running; my new quest is has been greatly influenced by McDougall because the book makes such a great case for it. The book contains a central story about a race, which I won't spoil, but it weaves in medical and training advice based on facts, research, first hand accounts, trials and the authors own experiences with running. The book essentially explains how to run and stay healthy doing it. I could never read a book just about facts and research, but with the central story, I found myself ale to get through the whole thing. I recommend this book, as most people do, but I would say you should definitely do so if you are thinking of going minimal or barefoot in the future.

Now I have moved on to Runner's World's Marathon training book. I am not reading this cover to cover because I am not a total newbie runner. Additionally, I know exactly what information I need right now because I am gearing up for the official start of my training cycle, which is a week from tomorrow. I will still be able to come to you with a review, but it won't happen until after I run the marathon. I want to see how well this training works compared to what I was already doing. I am already surprised by how many rest days are included. I have only given myself one rest day for the majority of my training, but the book does say that I can include cross-training - I think that will happen because 3 rest days will make me restless. I am super excited to get started!

I am getting extra geared up thanks to the chilly challenge. You can find a link to this on my previous post, but team Escapades continues to hold a leads over those dastardly Giraffes (sorry readers who are Giraffes, I still love you). So far this week I have put up 46.05 total miles towards the cause. This is a combination of outdoor and elliptical running. I think I am going to go outside and give myself an even 50 miles, but I need a rest from the gym. I feel good about my contribution for the week! Yesterday was a little rough, and my legs are somewhat tired; that is when you know it is working! Keep up the good work team!

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